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The Song of Moses. - In accordance with the object announced in Deuteronomy 31:19, this song contrasts the unchangeable fidelity of the Lord with the perversity of His faithless people. After a solemn introduction pointing out the importance of the instruction about to be given (Deuteronomy 32:1-3), this thought is placed in the foreground as the theme of the whole: the Lord is blameless and righteous in His doings, but Israel acts corruptly and perversely; and this is carried out in the first place by showing the folly of the Israelites in rebelling against the Lord (Deuteronomy 32:6-18); secondly, by unfolding the purpose of God to reject and punish the rebellious generation (Deuteronomy 32:19-23); and lastly, by announcing and depicting the fulfilment of this purpose, and the judgment in which the Lord would have mercy upon His servants and annihilate His foes (Deuteronomy 32:34-43).
The song embraces the whole of the future history of Israel, and bears all the marks of a prophetic testimony from the mouth of Moses, in the perfectly ideal picture which it draws, on the one hand, of the benefits and blessings conferred by the Lord upon His people; and on the other hand, of the ingratitude with which Israel repaid its God for them all. “This song, soaring as it does to the loftiest heights, moving amidst the richest abundance of pictures of both present and future, with its concise, compressed, and pictorial style, rough, penetrating, and sharp, but full of the holiest solemnity, a witness against the disobedient nation, a celebration of the covenant God, sets before us in miniature a picture of the whole life and conduct of the great man of God, whose office it pre-eminently was to preach condemnation” ( O. v. Gerlach). - It is true that the persons addressed in this ode are not the contemporaries of Moses, but the Israelites in Canaan, when they had grown haughty in the midst of the rich abundance of its blessings, and had fallen away from the Lord, so that the times when God led the people through the wilderness to Canaan are represented as days long past away. But this, the stand-point of the ode, is not to be identified with the poet's own time. It is rather a prophetic anticipation of the future, which has an analogon in a poet's absorption in an ideal future, and differs from this merely in the certainty and distinctness with which the future is foreseen and proclaimed. The assertion that the entire ode moves within the epoch of the kings who lived many centuries after the time of Moses, rests upon a total misapprehension of the nature of prophecy, and a mistaken attempt to turn figurative language into prosaic history. In the whole of the song there is not a single word to indicate that the persons addressed were “ already sighing under the oppression of a wild and hostile people, the barbarous hordes of Assyrians or Chaldeans” ( Ewald, Kamphausen, etc.).
(Note: How little firm ground there is for this assertion in the contents of the ode, is indirectly admitted even by Kamphausen himself in the following remarks: “The words of the ode leave us quite in the dark as to the author;” and “if it were really certain that Deuteronomy was composed by Moses himself, the question as to the authenticity of the ode would naturally be decided in the traditional way.” Consequently, the solution of the whole is to be found in the dictum, that “the circumstances which are assumed in any prophecy as already existing, and to which the prophetic utterances are appended as to something well known (?), really determine the time of the prophet himself;” and, according to this canon, which is held up as “certain and infallible,” but which is really thoroughly uncritical, and founded upon the purely dogmatic assumption that any actual foreknowledge of the future is impossible, the ode before us is to be assigned to a date somewhere about 700 years before Christ.)
The Lord had indeed determined to reject the idolatrous nation, and excite it to jealousy through those that were “no people,” and to heap up all evils upon it, famine, pestilence, and sword; but the execution of this purpose had not yet taken place, and, although absolutely certain, was in the future still. Moreover, the benefits which God had conferred upon His people, were not of such a character as to render it impossible that they should have been alluded to by Moses. All that the Lord had done for Israel, by delivering it from bondage and guiding it miraculously through the wilderness, had been already witnessed by Moses himself; and the description in Deuteronomy 32:13 and Deuteronomy 32:14, which goes beyond that time, is in reality nothing more than a pictorial expansion of the thought that Israel was most bountifully provided with the richest productions of the land of Canaan, which flowed with milk and honey. It is true, the satisfaction of Israel with these blessings had not actually taken place in the time of Moses, but was still only an object of hope; but it was hope of such a kind, that Moses could not cherish a moment's doubt concerning it. Throughout the whole we find no allusions to peculiar circumstances or historical events belonging to a later age. - On the other hand, the whole circle of ideas, figures, and words in the ode points decidedly to Moses as the author. Even if we leave out of sight the number of peculiarities of style ( ἅπ. λεγόμενα ), which is by no means inconsiderable, and such bold original composite words as לא־אל ( not-God, Deuteronomy 32:21; cf. Deuteronomy 32:17) and לא־עם ( not-people, Deuteronomy 32:21), which might point to a very remote antiquity, and furnish evidence of the vigour of the earliest poetry, - the figure of the eagle in Deuteronomy 32:11 points back to Exodus 19:4; the description of God as a rock in Deuteronomy 32:4, Deuteronomy 32:15, Deuteronomy 32:18, Deuteronomy 32:30, Deuteronomy 32:31, Deuteronomy 32:37, recalls Genesis 49:24; the fire of the wrath of God, burning even to the world beneath (Deuteronomy 32:22), points to the representation of God in Deuteronomy 4:24 as a consuming fire; the expression “to move to jealousy,” in Deuteronomy 32:16 and Deuteronomy 32:21, recalls the “jealous God” in Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 6:15; Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:14; the description of Israel as children (sons) in Deuteronomy 32:5, and “children without faithfulness” in Deuteronomy 32:20, suggests Deuteronomy 14:1; and the words, “O that they were wise,” in Deuteronomy 32:29, recall Deuteronomy 4:6, “a wise people.” Again, it is only in the Pentateuch that the word גּדל ( greatness, Deuteronomy 32:3) is used to denote the greatness of God (vid., Deuteronomy 3:24; Deuteronomy 5:21; Deuteronomy 9:26; Deuteronomy 11:2; Numbers 14:19); the name of honour given to Israel in Deuteronomy 32:15, viz., Jeshurun, only occurs again in Deuteronomy 33:5 and Deuteronomy 33:26, with the exception of Isaiah 44:2, where it is borrowed from these passages; and the plural form ימות , in Deuteronomy 32:7, is only met with again in the prayer of Moses, viz., Psalms 90:15.
“ Introduction and Theme. - in the introduction (Deuteronomy 32:1-3), - “ Give ear, O ye heavens, I will speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. Let my doctrine drop as the rain, let my speech fall as the dew; as showers upon green, and rain-drops upon herb, for I will publish the name of the Lord; give ye greatness to our God,” - Moses summons heaven and earth to hearken to his words, because the instruction which he was about to proclaim concerned both heaven and earth, i.e., the whole universe. It did so, however, not merely as treating of the honour of its Creator, which was disregarded by the murmuring people ( Kamphausen), or to justify God, as the witness of the righteousness of His doings, in opposition to the faithless nation, when He punished it for its apostasy (just as in Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 31:28-29, heaven and earth are appealed to as witnesses against rebellious Israel), but also inasmuch as heaven and earth would be affected by the judgment which God poured out upon faithless Israel and the nations, to avenge the blood of His servants (Deuteronomy 32:43); since the faithfulness and righteousness of God would thus become manifest in heaven and on earth, and the universe be sanctified and glorified thereby. The vav consec. before אדבּרה expresses the desired or intended sequel: so that I may then speak, or “so will I then speak” (vid., Köhler on Hagg. p. 44, note).
But because what was about to be announced was of such importance throughout, he desired that the words should trickle down like rain and dew upon grass and herb. The point of comparison lies in the refreshing, fertilizing, and enlivening power of the dew and rain. Might the song exert the same upon the hearts of the hearers. לקח , accepting, then, in a passive sense, that which is accepted, instruction (doctrine, Proverbs 16:21, Proverbs 16:23; Isaiah 29:24). To “ publish the name of the Lord: ” lit., call, i.e., proclaim (not “call upon”), or praise. It was not by himself alone that Moses desired to praise the name of the Lord; the hearers of his song were also to join in this praise. The second clause requires this: “ give ye (i.e., ascribe by word and conduct) greatness to our God.” גּדל , applied here to God (as in Deuteronomy 3:24; Deuteronomy 5:21; Deuteronomy 9:26; Deuteronomy 11:2), which is only repeated again in Psalms 150:2, is the greatness manifested by God in His acts of omnipotence; it is similar in meaning to the term “glory” in Psalms 29:1-2; Psalms 96:7-8.
“ The Rock - blameless is His work; for all His ways are right: a God of faithfulness, and without injustice; just and righteous is He. Corruptly acts towards Him, not His children; their spot, a perverse and crooked generation.” הצּוּר is placed first absolutely, to give it the greater prominence. God is called “the rock,” as the unchangeable refuge, who grants a firm defence and secure resort to His people, by virtue of His unchangeableness or impregnable firmness (see the synonym, “ the Stone of Israel,” in Genesis 49:24). This epithet points to the Mosaic age; and this is clearly shown by the use made of this title of God ( Zur ) in the construction of surnames in the Mosaic era; such, for example, as Pedahzur (Numbers 1:10), which is equivalent to Pedahel (“God-redeemed,” Numbers 34:28), Elizur (Numbers 1:5), Zuriel (Numbers 3:35), and Zurishaddai ( Numbers 1:6; Numbers 2:12). David, who had so often experienced the rock-like protection of his God, adopted it in his Psalms (2 Samuel 22:3, 2 Samuel 22:32 = Psalms 18:3, Psalms 18:32; also Ps. 19:15; Psalms 31:3-4; Psalms 71:3). Perfect (i.e., blameless, without fault or blemish) is His work; for His ways, which He adopts in His government of the world, are right. As the rock, He is “a God of faithfulness,” upon which men may rely and build in all the storms of life, and “without iniquity,” i.e., anything crooked or false in His nature.
His people Israel, on the contrary, had acted corruptly towards Him. The subject of “acted corruptly” is the rebellious generation of the people but before this subject there is introduced parenthetically, and in apposition, “not his children, but their spot.” Spot ( mum) is used here in a moral sense, as in Proverbs 9:7; Job 11:15; Job 31:7, equivalent to stain. The rebellious and ungodly were not children of the Lord, but a stain upon them. If these words had stood after the actual subject, instead of before them, they would have presented no difficulty. This verse is the original of the expression, “children that are corrupters,” in Isaiah 1:4.
Expansion of the theme according to the thought expressed in Deuteronomy 32:5. The perversity of the rebellious generation manifested itself in the fact, that it repaid the Lord, to whom it owed existence and well-being, for all His benefits, with a foolish apostasy from its Creator and Father. This thought is expressed in Deuteronomy 32:6, in a reproachful question addressed to the people, and then supported in Deuteronomy 32:7-14 by an enumeration of the benefits conferred by God, and in Deuteronomy 32:15-18 by a description of the ingratitude of the people.
“ Will ye thus repay the Lord? thou foolish people and unwise! Is He not thy Father, who hath founded thee, who hath made thee and prepared thee? ” גּמל , the primary idea of which is doubtful, signifies properly to show, or do, for the most part good, but sometimes evil (vid., Psalms 7:5). For the purpose of painting the folly of their apostasy distinctly before the eyes of the people, Moses crowds words together to describe what God was to the nation - “ thy Father,” to whose love Israel was indebted for its elevation into an independent people: comp. Isaiah 63:16, where Father and Redeemer are synonymous terms, with Isaiah 64:7, God the Father, Israel the clay which He had formed, and Malachi 2:10, where God as Father is said to have created Israel; see also the remarks at Deuteronomy 14:1 on the notion of Israel's sonship. - קונך , He has acquired thee; קנה , κτᾶσθαι , to get, acquire (Genesis 4:1), then so as to involve the idea of κτίζειν (Genesis 14:9), though without being identical with בּרא . It denotes here the founding of Israel as a nation, by its deliverance out of the power of Pharaoh. The verbs which follow ( made and established) refer to the elevation and preparation of the redeemed nation, as the nation of the Lord, by the conclusion of a covenant, the giving of the law, and their guidance through the desert.
“ Remember the days of old, consider the years of the past generations: ask thy father, that he may make known to thee; thine old men, that they may tell it to thee! ” With these words Moses summons the people to reflect upon what the Lord had done to them. The days of old ( עולם ), and years of generation and generation, i.e., years through which one generation after another had lived, are the times of the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, including the pre-Mosaic times, and also the immediate post-Mosaic, when Israel had entered into the possession of Canaan. These times are described by Moses as a far distant past, because he transported himself in spirit to the “latter days” (Deuteronomy 31:29), when the nation would have fallen away from its God, and would have been forsaken and punished by God in consequence. “ Days of eternity ” are times which lie an eternity behind the speaker, not necessarily, however, before all time, but simply at a period very far removed from the present, and of which even the fathers and old men could only relate what had been handed down by tradition to them.
“ When the Most High portioned out inheritance to the nations, when He divided the children of men; He fixed the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the sons of Israel: for the Lord's portion is His people; Jacob the cord of His inheritance.” Moses commences his enumeration of the manifestations of divine mercy with the thought, that from the very commencement of the forming of nations God had cared for His people Israel. The meaning of Deuteronomy 32:8 is given in general correctly by Calvin: “In the whole arrangement of the world God had kept this before Him as the end: to consult the interests of His chosen people.” The words, “when the Most High portioned out inheritance to the nations,” etc., are not to be restricted to the one fact of the confusion of tongues and division of the nations as described in Gen 11, but embrace the whole period of the development of the one human family in separate tribes and nations, together with their settlement in different lands; for it is no doctrine of the Israelitish legend, as Kamphausen supposes, that the division of the nations was completed once for all. The book of Genesis simply teaches, that after the confusion of tongues at the building of the tower of Babel, God scattered men over the entire surface of the earth (Deuteronomy 11:9), and that the nations were divided, i.e., separate nations were formed from the families of the sons of Noah ( Genesis 10:32); that is to say, the nations were formed in the divinely-appointed way of generation and multiplication, and so spread over the earth. And the Scriptures say nothing about a division of the countries among the different nations at one particular time; they simply show, that, like the formation of the nations from families and tribes, the possession of the lands by the nations so formed was to be traced to God, - was the work of divine providence and government, - whereby God so determined the boundaries of the nations (“the nations” are neither the tribes of Israel, nor simply the nations round about Canaan, but the nations generally), that Israel might receive as its inheritance a land proportioned to its numbers.
(Note: The Septuagint rendering, “according to the number of the angels of God,” is of no critical value, - in fact, is nothing more than an arbitrary interpretation founded upon the later Jewish notion of guardian angels of the different nations (Sir. 17:14), which probably originated in a misunderstanding of Deuteronomy 4:19, as compared with Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:20-21, and Daniel 12:1.)
God did this, because He had chosen Israel as His own nation, even before it came into existence. As the Lord's people of possession (cf. Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 10:15, and Exodus 19:5), Israel was Jehovah's portion, and the inheritance assigned to Him. חבל , a cord, or measure, then a piece of land measured off; here it is figuratively applied to the nation.
He had manifested His fatherly care and love to Israel as His own property.
“ He found him in the land of the desert, and in the wilderness, the howling of the steppe; He surrounded him, took care of him, protected him as the apple of His eye.” These words do not “relate more especially to the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai” ( Luther), nor merely to all the proofs of the paternal care with which God visited His people in the desert, to lead them to Sinai, there to adopt them as His covenant nation, and then to guide them to Canaan, to the exclusion of their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt. The reason why Moses does not mention this fact, or the passage through the Red Sea, is not to be sought for, either solely or even in part, in the fact that “the song does not rest upon the stand-point of the Mosaic times;” for we may see clearly that distance of time would furnish no adequate ground for “singling out and elaborating certain points only from the renowned stories of old,” say from the 105th Psalm, which no one would think of pronouncing an earlier production than this song. Nor is it because the gracious help of God, which the people experienced up to the time of the exodus from Egypt, was inferior in importance to the divine care exercised over it during the march through the desert (a fact which would need to be proved), or because the solemn conclusion of the covenant, whereby Israel first because the people of God, took place during the sojourn at Sinai, that Moses speaks of God as finding the people in the desert and adopting them there; but simply because it was not his intention to give a historical account of the acts performed by God upon and towards Israel, but to describe how Israel was in the most helpless condition when the Lord had compassion upon it, to take it out of that most miserable state in which it must have perished, and bring it into the possession of the richly-blessed land of Canaan. The whole description of what the Lord did for Israel (Deuteronomy 32:10-14) is figurative; Israel is represented as a man in the horrible desert, and in danger of perishing in the desolate waste, where not only bread and water had failed, but where ravenous beasts lay howling in wait for human life, when the Lord took him up and delivered him out of all distress. The expression “found him” is also to be explained from this figure. Finding presupposes seeking, and in the seeking the love which goes in search of the loved on is manifested. Also the expression “land of the desert” - a land which is a desert, without the article defining the desert more precisely - shows that the reference is not to the finding of Israel in the desert of Arabia, and that these words are not to be understood as relating to the fact, that when His people entered the desert the Lord appeared to them in the pillar of cloud and fire (Exodus 13:20, Schultz). For although the figure of the desert is chosen, because in reality the Lord had led Israel through the Arabian desert to Canaan, we must not so overlook the figurative character of the whole description as to refer the expression “ in a desert land” directly and exclusively to the desert of Arabia. The measures adopted by the Pharaohs, the object of which was the extermination or complete suppression of Israel, made even Egypt a land of desert to the Israelites, where they would inevitably have perished if the Lord had not sought, found, and surrounded them there. To depict still further the helpless and irremediable situation of Israel, the idea of the desert is heightened still further by the addition of וגו וּבתהוּ , “ and in fact ( ו is explanatory) in a waste,” or wilderness ( tohu recalls Genesis 1:2). “ Howling of the desert ” is in apposition to tohu ( waste), and not a genitive dependent upon it, viz., “waste of the howling of the desert, or of the desert in which wild beasts howl” ( Ewald), as if ילל stood after ישׁימן . “Howling of the desert” does not mean the desert in which wild beasts howl, but the howling which is heard in the desert of wild beasts. The meaning of the passage, therefore, is “in the midst of the howling of the wild beasts of the desert.” This clause serves to strengthen the idea of tohu (waste), and describes the waste as a place of the most horrible howling of wild beasts. It was in this situation that the Lord surrounded His people. סובב , to surround with love and care, not merely to protect (vid., Psalms 26:6; Jeremiah 31:22). בּונן , from בּין or הבין , to pay attention, in the sense of “not to lose sight of them.” “To keep as the apple of the eye” is a figurative description of the tenderest care. The apple of the eye is most carefully preserved (vid., Psalms 17:8; Proverbs 7:2).
“ As an eagle, which stirreth up its nest and soars over its young, He spread out His wings, took him up, carried him upon His wings.” Under the figure of an eagle, which teaches its young to fly, and in doing so protects them from injury with watchful affection, Moses describes the care with which the Lord came to the relief of His people in their helplessness, and assisted them to develop their strength. This figure no doubt refers more especially to the protection and assistance of God experienced by Israel in its journey through the Arabian desert; but it must not be restricted to this. It embraces both the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt by the outstretched arm of the Lord, as we may see from a comparison with Exodus 19:4, where the Lord is said to have brought His people out of Egypt upon eagles' wings, and also the introduction into Canaan, when the Lord drove the Canaanites out from before them and destroyed them. This verse contains an independent thought; the first half is the protasis, the second the apodosis. The nominative to “spreadeth abroad” is Jehovah; and the suffixes in יקּחהוּ and ישּׂאהוּ (“taketh” and “beareth”) refer to Israel or Jacob (Deuteronomy 32:9), like the suffixes in Deuteronomy 32:10. As כּ cannot open a sentence like כּאשׁר , we must supply the relative אשׁר after נשׁר . קנּו העיר , to waken up, rouse up its nest, i.e., to encourage the young ones to fly. It is rendered correctly by the Vulgate, provocans ad volandum pullos suos; and freely by Luther, “bringeth out its young.” “ Soareth over its young: ” namely, in order that, when they were attempting to fly, if any were in danger of falling through exhaustion, it might take them at once upon its powerful wings, and preserve them from harm. Examples of this, according to the popular belief, are given by Bochart ( Hieroz. ii. p. 762). רחף , from רחף to be loose or slack ( Jeremiah 23:9): in the Piel it is applied to a bird in the sense of loosening its wings, as distinguished from binding its wings to its body; hence (1) to sit upon eggs with loosened wings, and (2) to fly with loosened wings. Here it is used in the latter sense, because the young are referred to. The point of comparison between the conduct of God towards Jacob and the acts of an eagle towards its young, is the loving care with which He trained Israel to independence. The carrying of Israel upon the eagle's wings of divine love and omnipotence was manifested in the most glorious way in the guidance of it by the pillar of cloud and fire, though it was not so exclusively in this visible vehicle of the gracious presence of God as that the comparison can be restricted to this phenomenon alone. Luther's interpretation is more correct than this - “Moses points out in these words, how He fostered them in the desert, bore with their manners, tried them and blessed them that they might learn to fly, i.e., to trust in Him,” - except that the explanation of the expression “to fly” is narrowed too much.
“ The Lord alone did lead him, and with Him was no strange god. He made him drive over the high places of the earth, and eat the productions of the field; and made him suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flint-stone. Cream of cattle, and milk of the flock, with the fat of lambs, and rams of Bashan's kind, and bucks, with the kidney-fat of wheat: and grape-blood thou drankest as fiery wine.” Moses gives prominence to the fact that Jehovah alone conducted Israel, to deprive the people of every excuse for their apostasy from the Lord, and put their ingratitude in all the stronger light. If no other god stood by the Lord to help Him, He had thereby laid Israel under the obligation to serve Him alone as its God. “ With Him ” refers to Jehovah, and not to Israel.
The Lord caused the Israelites to take possession of Canaan with victorious power, and enter upon the enjoyment of its abundant blessings. The phrase, “to cause to drive over the high places of the earth,” is a figurative expression for the victorious subjugation of a land; it is not taken from Psalms 18:34, as Ewald assumes, but is original both here and in Deuteronomy 33:29. “ Drive ” (ride) is only a more majestic expression for “ advance.” The reference to this passage in Isaiah 58:14 is unmistakeable. Whoever has obtained possession of the high places of a country is lord of the land. The “high places of the earth” do not mean the high places of Canaan only, although the expression in this instance relates to the possession of Canaan. “ And he (Jacob) ate: ” for, so that he could now eat, the productions of the field, and in fact all the riches of the fruitful land, which are then described in superabundant terms. Honey out of the rock and oil out of the flint-stone, i.e., the most valuable productions out of the most unproductive places, since God so blessed the land that even the rocks and stones were productive. The figure is derived from the fact that Canaan abounds in wild bees, which make their hives in clefts of the rock, and in olive-trees which grow in a rocky soil. “Rock-flints,” i.e., rocky flints. The nouns in Deuteronomy 32:14 are dependent upon “to suck” in Deuteronomy 32:13, as the expression is not used literally. “Things which are sweet and pleasant to eat, people are in the habit of sucking” ( Ges. thes. p. 601). חמאה and חלב (though הלב seems to require a form חלב ; vid., Ewald, §213, b.) denotes the two forms in which the milk yielded by the cattle was used; the latter, milk in general, and the former thick curdled milk, cream, and possibly also butter. The two are divided poetically here, and the cream being assigned to the cattle, and the milk to the sheep and goats. “ The fat of lambs,” i.e., “lambs of the best description laden with fat” ( Vitringa). Fat is a figurative expression for the best (vid., Numbers 18:12). “ And rams: ” grammatically, no doubt, this might also be connected with “the fat,” but it is improbable from a poetical point of view, since the enumeration would thereby drag prosaically; and it is also hardly reconcilable with the apposition בשׁן בּני , i.e., reared in Bashan (vid., Ezekiel 39:18), which implies that Bashan was celebrated for its rams, and not merely for its oxen. This epithet, which Kamphausen renders “of Bashan's kind,” is unquestionably used for the best description of rams. The list becomes poetical, if we take “rams” as an accusative governed by the verb “to suck” (Deuteronomy 32:13). “ Kidney-fat (i.e., the best fat) of wheat,” the finest and most nutritious wheat. Wine is mentioned last, and in this case the list passes with poetic freedom into the form of an address. “ Grape-blood ” for red wine (as in Genesis 49:11). חמר , from חמר to ferment, froth, foam, lit., the foaming, i.e., fiery wine, serves as a more precise definition of the “blood of the grape.”
Israel had repaid its God for all these benefits by a base apostasy. - Deuteronomy 32:15. “ But Righteous-nation became fat, and struck out - thou becamest fat, thick, gross - and let go God who made him, and despised the rock of his salvation.” So much is certain concerning Jeshurun, that it was an honourable surname given to Israel; that it is derived from ישׁר , and describes Israel as a nation of just or right men (a similar description to that given by Balaam in Numbers 23:10), because Jehovah, who is just and right (Deuteronomy 32:4), had called it to uprightness, to walk in His righteousness, and chosen it as His servant (Isaiah 44:2). The prevalent opinion, that Jeshurun is a diminutive, and signifies rectalus , or “little pious” ( Ges. and others), has no more foundation than the derivation from Israel, and the explanation, “little Israel,” since there is no philological proof that the termination un ever had a diminutive signification in Hebrew (see Hengstenberg, Balaam, p. 415); and an appellatio blanda et charitativa is by no means suitable to this passage, much less to Deuteronomy 33:5. The epithet Righteous-nation, as we may render Jeshurun, was intended to remind Israel of its calling, and involved the serverest reproof of its apostasy. “By placing the name of righteous before Israel, he censured ironically those who had fallen away from righteousness; and by thus reminding them with what dignity they had been endowed, he upbraided them with the more severity for their guilt of perfidy. For in other places (sc., Deuteronomy 33:5, Deuteronomy 33:26) Israel is honoured with an eulogium of the same kind, without any such sinister meaning, but with simple regard to its calling; whilst here Moses shows reproachfully how far they had departed from that pursuit of piety, to the cultivation of which they had been called” ( Calvin). The words, “became fat, and struck out,” are founded upon the figure of an ox that had become fat, and intractable in consequence (vid., Isaiah 10:27; Hosea 4:16; and for the fact itself, Deuteronomy 6:11; Deuteronomy 8:10; Deuteronomy 31:20). To sharpen this reproof, Moses repeats the thought in the form of a direct address to the people: “Thou hast become fat, stout, gross.” Becoming fat led to forsaking God, the Creator and ground of its salvation. “A full stomach does not promote piety, for it stands secure, and neglects God” ( Luther). נבּל is no doubt a denom. verb from נבל , lit., to treat as a fool, i.e., to despise (vid., Micah. Deuteronomy 7:6).
“ They excited His jealousy through strange (gods), they provoked Him by abominations. They sacrificed to devils, which (were) not-God; to gods whom they knew not, to new (ones) that had lately come up, whom your fathers feared not. The rock which begat thee thou forsookest, and hast forgotten the God that bare thee.” These three verses are only a further expansion of Deuteronomy 32:15. Forsaking the rock of its salvation, Israel gave itself up to the service of worthless idols. The expression “ excite to jealousy” is founded upon the figure of a marriage covenant, under which the relation of the Lord to Israel is represented (vid., Deuteronomy 31:16, and the com. on Exodus 34:15). “This jealousy rests upon the sacred and spiritual marriage tie, by which God had bound the people to Himself” ( Calvin). “Strange gods,” with which Israel committed adultery, as in Jeremiah 2:25; Jeremiah 3:13. The idols are called “abominations” because Jehovah abhorred them (Deuteronomy 7:25; Deuteronomy 27:15; cf. 2 Kings 23:13). שׁדים signifies demons in Syriac, as it has been rendered by the lxx and Vulgate here; lit., lords, like Baalim. It is also used in Psalms 106:37. - “ Not-God,” a composite noun, in apposition to Shedim (devils), like the other expressions which follow: “gods whom they knew not,” i.e., who had not made themselves known to them as gods by any benefit or blessing (vid., Deuteronomy 11:28); “new (ones), who had come from near,” i.e., had but lately risen up and been adopted by the Israelites. “Near,” not in a local but in a temporal sense, in contrast to Jehovah, who had manifested and attested Himself as God from of old (Deuteronomy 32:7). שׂער , to shudder, construed here with an accusative, to experience a holy shuddering before a person, to revere with holy awe. - In Deuteronomy 32:18 Moses returns to the thought of Deuteronomy 32:15, for the purpose of expressing it emphatically once more, and paving the way for a transition to the description of the acts of the Lord towards His rebellious nation. To bring out still more prominently the base ingratitude of the people, he represents the creation of Israel by Jehovah, the rock of its salvation, under the figure of generation and birth, in which the paternal and maternal love of the Lord to His people had manifested itself. חולל , to twist round, then applied to the pains of childbirth. The ἁπ. λεγ. תּשׁי is to be traced to שׁיה , and is a pausal form like יחי in Deuteronomy 4:33. שׁיה = שׁהה , to forget, to neglect.
For this foolish apostasy the Lord would severely visit His people. This visitation is represented indeed in Deuteronomy 32:19, as the consequence of apostasy that had taken place, - not, however, as a punishment already inflicted, but simply as a resolution which god had formed and would carry out, - an evident proof that we have no song here belonging to the time when God visited with severe punishments the Israelites who had fallen into idolatry. In Deuteronomy 32:19 the determination to reject the degenerate children is announced, and in Deuteronomy 32:20-22 this is still further defined and explained.
“ And the Lord saw it, and rejected - from indignation at His sons and daughters.” The object to “saw” may easily be supplied from the context: He saw the idolatry of the people, and rejected those who followed idols, and that because of indignation that His sons and daughters practised such abominations. The expression “he saw” simply serves to bring out the causal link between the apostasy and the punishment. ויּנאץ has been very well rendered by Kamphausen, “He resolved upon rejection,” since Deuteronomy 32:20. clearly show that the rejection had only been resolved upon by God, and was not yet carried out. In what follows, Moses puts this resolution into the mouth of the Lord Himself.
“ And He said, I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end will be: for they are a generation full of perversities, children in whom is no faithfulness. They excited My jealousy by a no-god, provoked Me by their vanities: and I also will excite their jealousy by a no-people, provoke them by a foolish nation. For a fire blazes up in My nose, and burns to the lowest hell, and consumes the earth with its increase, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.” The divine purpose contains two things: - first of all (Deuteronomy 32:20) the negative side, to hide the face, i.e., to withdraw His favour and see what their end would be, i.e., that their apostasy would bring nothing but evil and destruction; for they were “a nation of perversities” ( taphuchoth is moral perversity, Proverbs 2:14; Proverbs 6:14), i.e., “a thoroughly perverse and faithless generation” ( Knobel); - and then, secondly (Deuteronomy 32:21), the positive side, viz., chastisement according to the right of complete retaliation. The Israelites had excited the jealousy and vexation of God by a no-god and vanities; therefore God would excite their jealousy and vexation by a no-people and a foolish nation. How this retaliation would manifest itself is not fully defined however here, but is to be gathered from the conduct of Israel towards the Lord. Israel had excited the jealousy of God by preferring a no-god, or הבלים , nothingnesses, i.e., gods that were vanities or nothings ( Elilim , Leviticus 19:4), to the true and living God, its Father and Creator. God would therefore excite them to jealousy and ill-will by a no-people, a foolish nation, i.e., by preferring a no-people to the Israelites, transferring His favour to them, and giving the blessing which Israel had despised to a foolish nation. It is only with this explanation of the words that full justice is done to the idea of retribution; and it was in this sense that Paul understood this passage as referring to the adoption of the Gentiles as the people of God (Romans 10:19), and that not merely by adaptation, or by connecting another meaning with the words, as Umbreit supposes, but by interpreting it in exact accordance with the true sense of the words.
(Note: But when Kamphausen, on the other hand, maintains that this thought, which the apostle finds in the passage before us, would be “quite erroneous if taken as an exposition of the words,” the assertion is supported by utterly worthless arguments: for example, (1) that throughout this song the exalted heathen are never spoken of as the bride of God, but simply as a rod of discipline used against Israel; (2) that this verse refers to the whole nation of Israel, and there is no trace of any distinction between the righteous and the wicked; and (3) that the idea that God would choose another people as the covenant nation would have been the very opposite of that Messianic hope with which the author of this song was inspired. To begin with the last, the Messianic hope of the song consisted unquestionably in the thought that the Lord would do justice to His people, His servants, and would avenge their blood, even when the strength of the nation should have disappeared (Deuteronomy 32:36 and Deuteronomy 32:43). But this thought, that the Lord would have compassion upon Israel at last, by no means excludes the reception of the heathen into the kingdom of God, as is sufficiently apparent from Rom 9-11. The assertion that this verse refers to the whole nation is quite incorrect. The plural suffixes used throughout in Deuteronomy 32:20 and Deuteronomy 32:21 show clearly that both verses simply refer to those who had fallen away from the Lord; and nowhere throughout the whole song is it assumed, that the whole nation would fall away to the very last man, so that there would be no further remnant of faithful servants of the Lord, to whom the Lord would manifest His favour again. And lastly, it is nowhere affirmed that God would simply use the heathen as a rod against Israel. The reference is solely to enemies and oppressors of Israel; and the chastisement of Israel by foes holds the second, and therefore a subordinate, place among the evils with which God would punish the rebellious. It is true that the heathen are not described as the bride of God in this song, but that is for no other reason than because the idea of moving them to jealousy with a not-people is not more fully expanded.)
The adoption of the Gentile world into covenant with the Lord involved the rejection of the disobedient Israel; and this rejection would be consummated in severe judgments, in which the ungodly would perish. In this way the retribution inflicted by the Lord upon the faithless and perverse generation of His sons and daughters becomes a judgment upon the whole world. The jealousy of the Lord blazes up into a fire of wrath, which burns down to sheol. This aspect of the divine retribution comes into the foreground in what follows, from Deuteronomy 32:23 onwards; whilst the adoption of the Gentile world, which the Apostle Paul singles out as the leading thought of this verse, in accordance with the special purpose of the song, falls back behind the thought, that the Lord would not utterly destroy Israel, but when all its strength had disappeared would have compassion upon His servants, and avenge their blood upon His foes. The idea of a no-people is to be gathered from the antithesis no-god. As Schultz justly observes, “the expression no-people can no more denote a people of monsters, than the no-god was a monster, by which Israel had excited the Lord to jealousy.” This remark is quite sufficient to show that the opinion of Ewald and others is untenable and false, namely, that “the expression no-people signifies a truly inhuman people, terrible and repulsive.” No-god is a god to whom the predicate of godhead cannot properly be applied; and so also no-people is a people that does not deserve the name of a people or nation at all. The further definition of no-god is to be found in the word “vanities” No-god are the idols, who are called vanities or nothingnesses, because they deceive the confidence of men in their divinity; because, as Jeremiah says (Jeremiah 14:22), they can give no showers of rain or drops of water from heaven. No-people is explained by a “foolish nation.” A “foolish nation” is the opposite of a wise and understanding people, as Israel is called in Deuteronomy 4:6, because it possessed righteous statutes and rights in the law of the Lord. The foolish nation therefore is not “an ungodly nation, which despises all laws both human and divine” ( Ros., Maur.), but a people whose laws and rights are not founded upon divine revelation. Consequently the no-people is not “a barbarous and inhuman people” ( Ros.), or “a horde of men that does not deserve to be called a people” ( Maurer), but a people to which the name of a people or nation is to be refused, because its political and judicial constitution is the work of man, and because it has not the true God for its head and king; or, as Vitringa explains, “a people not chosen by the true God, passed by when a people was chosen, shut out from the fellowship and grace of God, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and a stranger from the covenant of promise (Ephesians 2:12).” In this respect every heathen nation was a “no-people,” even though it might not be behind the Israelites so far as its outward organization was concerned. This explanation cannot be set aside, either by the objection that at that time Israel had brought itself down to the level of the heathen, by its apostasy from the Eternal, - for the notion of people and no-people is not taken from the outward appearance of Israel at any particular time, but is derived from its divine idea and calling, - or by an appeal to the singular, “a foolish nation,” whereas we should expect “foolish nations” to correspond to the “vanities,” if we were to understand by the no-people not one particular heathen nation, but the heathen nations generally. The singular, “ a foolish nation,” was required by the antithesis, upon which it is founded, the “wise nation,” from which the expression no-people first receives its precise definition, which would be altogether obliterated by the plural. Moreover, Moses did not intend to give expression to the thought that God would excite Israel to jealousy by either few, or many, or all the Gentile nations.
In Deuteronomy 32:22, the determination of the Lord with regard to the faithless generation is explained by the threat, that the wrath of the Lord which was kindled against this faithlessness would set the whole world in flames down to the lowest hell. We may see how far the contents of this verse are from favouring the conclusion that “no-people” means a barbarous and inhuman horde, from the difficulty which the supporters of this view had found in dealing with the word כּי . Ewald renders it doch (yet), in total disregard of the usages of the language; and Venema, certe , profecto (surely); whilst Kamphausen supposes it to be used in a somewhat careless manner. The contents of Deuteronomy 32:22, which are introduced with כּי , by no means harmonize with the thought, “I will send a barbarous and inhuman horde;” whilst the announcement of a judgment setting the whole world in flames may form a very suitable explanation of the thought, that the Lord would excite faithless Israel to jealousy by a “ no-people.” This judgment, for example, would make the worthlessness of idols and the omnipotence of the God of Israel manifest in all the earth, and would lead the nations to seek refuge and salvation with the living God; and, as we learn from the history of the kingdom of God, and the allusions of the Apostle Paul to this mystery of the divine counsels, the heathen themselves would be the first to do so when they saw all their power and glory falling into ruins, and then the Israelites, when they saw that God had taken the kingdom from them and raised up the heathen who were converted to Him to be His people. The fire in the nose of the Lord is a figurative description of burning wrath and jealousy (vid., Deuteronomy 29:19). The fire signifies really nothing else than His jealousy, His vital energy, and in a certain sense His breath; it therefore naturally burns in the nose (vid., Psalms 18:9). In this sense the Lord as “a jealous God” is a consuming fire (vid., Deuteronomy 4:24, and the exposition of Exodus 3:2). This fire burns down even to the lower hell. The lower hell, i.e., the lowest region of sheol, or the lower regions, forms the strongest contrast to heaven; though we cannot deduce any definite doctrinal conclusions from the expression as to the existence of more hells than one. This fire “consumes the earth with its increase,” i.e., all its vegetable productions, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains. This description is not a hyperbolical picture of the judgment which was to fall upon the children of Israel alone ( Kamphausen, Aben-Ezra, etc.); for it is a mistake to suppose that the judgment foretold affected the Israelitish nation only. The thought is weakened by the assumption that the language is hyperbolical. The words are not intended to foretell one particular penal judgment, but refer to judgment in its totality and universality, as realized in the course of centuries in different judgments upon the nations, and only to be completely fulfilled at the end of the world. “ Calvin is right therefore when he says, “As the indignation and anger of God follow His enemies to hell, to eternal flames and infernal tortures, so they devour their land with its produce, and burn the foundations of the mountains;...there is no necessity therefore to imagine that there is any hyperbole in the words, 'to the lower hell.'” This judgment is then depicted in Deuteronomy 32:23-33 as it would discharge itself upon rebellious Israel.
“ I will heap up evils upon them, use up My arrows against them.” The evils threatened against the despisers of the Lord and His commandments would be poured out in great abundance by the Lord upon the foolish generation. ספה , to add one upon the other (vid., Numbers 32:14); hence in Hiphil to heap up, sweep together. These evils are represented in the second clause of the verse as arrows, which the Lord as a warrior would shoot away at his foes (as in Deuteronomy 32:42; cf. Psalms 38:3; Psalms 91:6; Job 6:4). כּלּה , to bring to an end, to use up to the very last.
“ Have they wasted away with hunger, are they consumed with pestilential heat and bitter plague: I will let loose the tooth of beasts upon them, with the poison of things that crawl in the dust.” (Deuteronomy 32:25) “ If the sword without shall sweep them away, and in the chambers of terrors, the young man as the maiden, the suckling with the grey-haired man.” The evils mentioned are hunger, pestilence, plague, wild beasts, poisonous serpents, and war. The first hemistich in Deuteronomy 32:24 contains simply nouns construed absolutely, which may be regarded as a kind of circumstantial clause. The literal meaning is, “With regard to those who are starved with hunger, etc., I will send against them;” i.e., when hunger, pestilence, plague, have brought them to the verge of destruction, I will send, etc. מזי , construct state of מזה , ἁπ. λεγ. with which Cocceius compares מצה and מצץ , to suck out, and for which Schultens has cited analogies from the Arabic. “Sucked out by hunger,” i.e., wasted away. “Tooth of beasts and poison of serpents:” poetical for beasts of prey and poisonous animals. See Leviticus 26:22, where wild beasts are mentioned as a plague along with pestilence, famine, and sword.
These are accompanied by the evils of war, which sweeps away the men outside in the slaughter itself by the sword, and the defenceless - viz., youths and maidens, sucklings and old men - in the chambers by alarm. אימה is a sudden mortal terror, and Knobel is wrong in applying it to hunger and plague. The use of the verb שׁכּל , to make childless, is to be explained on the supposition that the nation or land is personified as a mother, whose children are the members of the nation, old and young together. Ezekiel has taken the four grievous judgments out of these two verses: sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence (Ezekiel 14:21: see also Ezekiel 5:17, and Jeremiah 15:2-3).
“ I should say, I will blow them away, I will blot out the remembrance of them among men; if I did not fear wrath upon the enemy, that their enemies might mistake it, that they might say, Our hand was high, and Jehovah has not done all this.” The meaning is, that the people would have deserved to be utterly destroyed, and it was only for His own name's sake that God abstained from utter destruction. אמרתּי to be construed conditionally requires לוּלי : if I did not fear (as actually was the case) I should resolve to destroy them, without leaving a trace behind. “ I should say,” used to denote the purpose of God, like “he said” in Deuteronomy 32:20. The ἁπ. λεγ. אפאיחם , which has been rendered in very different ways, cannot be regarded, as it is by the Rabbins, as a denom. verb from פּאה , a corner; and Calvin's rendering, “to scatter through corners,” does not suit the context; whilst the meaning, “to cast or scare out of all corners,” cannot be deduced from this derivation. The context requires the signification to annihilate, as the remembrance of them was to vanish from the earth. We get this meaning if we trace it to פּאה , to blow, - related to פּעה (Isaiah 42:14) and פּהה , from which comes פּה , - in the Hiphil “to blow away,” not to blow asunder. השׁבּית , not “to cause to rest,” but to cause to cease, delere (as in Amos 8:4). “ Wrath upon the enemy,” i.e., “displeasure on the part of God at the arrogant boasting of the enemy, which was opposed to the glory of God” ( Vitringa). פּן , lest, after גּוּר , to fear. On this reason for sparing Israel, see Deuteronomy 9:28; Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:13.; Isaiah 10:5. Enemy is a generic term, hence it is followed by the plural. נכר , Piel, to find strange, sc., the destruction of Israel, i.e., to mistake the reason for it, or, as is shown by what follows, to ascribe the destruction of Israel to themselves and their own power, whereas it had been the word of God. “ Our hand was high,” i.e., has lifted itself up or shown itself mighty, an intentional play upon the “high hand” of the Lord (Exodus 14:8; cf. Isaiah 26:11). - The reason why Israel did not deserve to be spared is given in Deuteronomy 32:28: “ For a people forsaken of counsel are they, and there is not understanding in them.” “Forsaken of counsel,” i.e., utterly destitute of counsel.
This want of understanding on the part of Israel is still further expounded in Deuteronomy 32:29-32, where the words of God pass imperceptibly into the words of Moses, who feels impelled once more to impress the word which the Lord had spoken upon the hearts of the people.
“ If they were wise, they would understand this, would consider their end. Ah, how could one pursue a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, were it not that their Rock had sold them, and Jehovah had given them up! For their rock is not as our rock; of that our enemies are judges.” לוּ presupposes a case, which is either known not to exist, or of which this is assumed; “if they were wise,” which they are not. “This” refers to the leading thought of the whole, viz., that apostasy from God the Lord is sure to be followed by the severest judgment. “ Their end,” as in Deuteronomy 32:20, the end towards which the people were going through obstinate perseverance in their sin, i.e., utter destruction, if the Lord did not avert it for His name's sake.
If Israel were wise, it could easily conquer all its foes in the power of its God (vid., Leviticus 26:8); but as it had forsaken the Lord its rock, He, their (Israel's) rock, had given them up into the power of the foe. כּי לא אם is more emphatic or distinct than לא אם only, and introduces an exception which does not permit the desired event to take place. Israel could have put all its enemies to flight were it not that its God had given it entirely up to them (sold them as slaves). The supposition that this had already occurred by no means proves, as Kamphausen believes, “that the poet was speaking of the existing state of the nation,” but merely that Moses thinks of the circumstances as certain to occur when the people should have forsaken their God. The past implied in the verbs “sold” and “given up” is a prophetically idea past or present, but not a real and historical one. The assertion of Hupfeld and Kamphausen, that מכר , as used with special reference to the giving up of a nation into the power of the heathen, “ belongs to a somewhat later usage of the language,” is equally groundless.
The giving up of Israel into the power of the heathen arose, not from the superior power of the heathen and their gods, but solely from the apostasy of Israel from its own God. “Our rock,” as Moses calls the Lord, identifying himself with the nation, is not as their rock, i.e., the gods in whom the heathen trust. That the pronoun in “ their rock” refers to the heathen, is so perfectly obvious from the antithesis “ our rock,” that there cannot possibly be any doubt about it. The second hemistich in Deuteronomy 32:30 contains a circumstantial clause, introduced to strengthen the thought which precedes it. The heathen themselves could be arbitrators (vid., Exodus 21:22), and decide whether the gods of the heathen were not powerless before the God of Israel. “Having experience so often the formidable might of God, they knew for a certainty that the God of Israel was very different from their own idols” ( Calvin). The objection offered by Schultz, namely, that “the heathen would not admit that their idols were inferior to Jehovah, and actually denied this at the time when they had the upper hand ( Isaiah 10:10-11),” has been quite anticipated by Calvin, when he observes that Moses “leaves the decision to the unbelievers, not as if they would speak the truth, but because he knew that they must be convinced by experience.” As a confirmation of this, Luther and others refer not only to the testimony of Balaam (Num 23 and 24), but also to the Egyptians ( Exodus 14:25) and Philistines (1 Samuel 5:7.), to which we may add Joshua 2:9-10.
“ For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are poisonous grapes, bitter clusters have they. Dragon-poison is their wine, and dreadful venom of asps.” The connection is pointed out by Calovius thus: “Moses returns to the Jews, showing why, although the rock of the Jews was very different from the gods of the Gentiles, even according to the testimony of the heathen themselves, who were their foes, they were nevertheless to be put to flight by their enemies and sold; and why Jehovah sold them, namely, because their vine was of the vine of Sodom, i.e., of the very worst kind, resembling the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, as if they were descended from them, and not from their holy patriarchs.” The “ for ” in Deuteronomy 32:32 is neither co-ordinate nor subordinate to that in Deuteronomy 32:31. To render it as subordinate would give no intelligible meaning; and the supposition that it is co-ordinate is precluded by the fact, that in that case Deuteronomy 32:32 and Deuteronomy 32:33 would contain a description of the corruptions of the heathen. The objections to this view have been thus expressed by Schultz with perfect justice: “It is à priori inconceivable, that in so short an ode there should be so elaborate a digression on the subject of the heathen, seeing that their folly is altogether foreign to the theme of the whole.” To this we may add, that throughout the Old Testament it is the moral corruption and ungodliness of the Israelites, and never the vices of the heathen, that are compared to the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Israelites who were forsaken by the Lord, were designated by Isaiah (Isaiah 1:10) as a people of Gomorrah, and their rulers as rulers of Sodom (cf. Isaiah 3:9); the inhabitants of Jerusalem were all of them like Sodom and Gomorrah (Jeremiah 23:14); and the sin of Jerusalem was greater than that of Sodom (Ezekiel 16:46.). The only sense in which the “for” in Deuteronomy 32:32 can be regarded as co-ordinate to that in Deuteronomy 32:31, is on the supposition that the former gives the reason for the thought in Deuteronomy 32:30, whilst the latter serves to support the idea in Deuteronomy 32:30. The order of thought is the following: Israel would have been able to smite its foes with very little difficulty, because the gods of the heathen are not a rock like Jehovah; but Jehovah had given up His people to the heathen, because it had brought forth fruits like Sodom, i.e., had resembled Sodom in its wickedness. The vine and its fruits are figurative terms, applied to the nation and its productions. “The nation was not only a degenerate, but also a poisonous vine, producing nothing but what was deadly” ( Calvin). This figure is expanded still further by Isaiah 5:2. Israel was a vineyard planted by Jehovah, that it might bring forth good fruits, instead of which it brought forth wild grapes (vid., Jeremiah 2:21; Psalms 80:9.; Hosea 10:1). “Their vine” is the Israelites themselves, their nature being compared to a vine which had degenerated as much as if it had been an offshoot of a Sodomitish vine. שׁדמת , the construct state of שׁדמת , floors, fields. The grapes of this vine are worse than wild grapes is snake-poison. Tannin: see Exodus 7:9-10. Pethen: the asp or adder, one of the most poisonous kinds of snake, whose bite was immediately fatal (vid., Rosenmüller, bibl. Althk. iv. 2, pp. 364ff.). These figures express the thought, that “nothing could be imagined worse, or more to be abhorred, than that nation” ( Calvin). Now although this comparison simply refers to the badness of Israel, the thought of the penal judgment that fell upon Sodom lies behind. “They imitate the Sodomites, they bring forth the worst fruits of all impiety, they deserve to perish like Sodom” ( J. H. Michaelis).
The description of this judgment commences in Deuteronomy 32:34. Israel had deserved for its corruption to be destroyed from the earth (Deuteronomy 32:26); yet for His name's sake the Lord would have compassion upon it, when it was so humiliated with its heavy punishments that its strength was coming to an end.
“ Is not this hidden with Me, sealed up in My treasuries? ” The allusion in this verse has been disputed; many refer it to what goes before, others to what follows after. There is some truth in both. The verse forms the transition, closing what precedes, and introducing what follows. The assertion that the figure of preserving in the treasuries precludes the supposition that “ this ” refers to what follows, cannot be sustained. For although in Hosea 13:12, and Job 14:17, the binding and sealing of sins in a bundle are spoken of, yet it is very evident from Psalms 139:16; Malachi 3:16, and Daniel 7:10, that not only the evil doings of men, but their days generally, i.e., not only their deeds, but the things which happen to them, are written in a book before God. O. v. Gerlach has explained it correctly: “All these things have been decreed long ago; their coming is infallibly certain.” “ This ” includes not only the sins of the nation, but also the judgments of God. The apostasy of Israel, as well as the consequent punishment, is laid up with God - sealed up in His treasuries - and therefore they have not yet actually occurred: an evident proof that we have prophecy before us, and not the description of an apostasy that had already taken place, and of the punishment inflicted in consequence. The ἁπ. λεγ. כּמס in this connection signifies to lay up, preserve, conceal, although the etymology is disputed. The figure in the second hemistich is not taken from secret archives, but from treasuries or stores, in which whatever was to be preserved was to be laid up, to be taken out in due time.
“ Vengeance is Mine, and retribution for the time when their foot shall shake: for the day of their destruction is near, and that which is determined for them cometh hastily. For the Lord will judge His people, and have compassion upon His servants, when He seeth that every hold has disappeared, and the fettered and the free are gone.” - The Lord will punish the sins of His people in due time. “Vengeance is Mine:” it belongs to Me, it is My part to inflict. שׁלּם is a noun here for the usual שׁלּוּם , retribution (vid., Ewald, §156, b.). The shaking of the foot is a figure representing the commencement of a fall, or of stumbling vid., Psalms 38:17; Psalms 94:18). The thought in this clause is not, “At or towards the time when their misfortune begins, I will plunge them into the greatest calamity,” as Kamphausen infers from the fact that the shaking denotes the beginning of the calamity; and yet the vengeance can only be completed by plunging them into calamity, - a though which he justly regards as unsuitable, though he resorts to emendations of the text in consequence. But the supposed unsuitability vanishes, if we simply regard the words, “ Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,” not as the mere announcement of a quality founded in the nature of God, and residing in God Himself, but as an expression of the divine energy, with this signification, I will manifest Myself as an avenger and recompenser, when their foot shall shake. Then what had hitherto been hidden with God, lay sealed up as it were in His treasures, should come to light, and be made manifest to the sinful nation. God would not delay in this; for the day of their destruction was near. איד signifies misfortune, and sometimes utter destruction. The primary meaning of the word cannot be determined with certainty. That it does not mean utter destruction, we may see from the parallel clause. “The things that shall come upon them,” await them, or are prepared for them, are, according to the context, both in Deuteronomy 32:26 and also in Deuteronomy 32:36., not destruction, but simply a calamity or penal judgment that would bring them near to utter destruction. Again, these words do not relate to the punishment of “the wicked deeds of the inhuman horde,” or the vengeance of God upon the enemies of Israel ( Ewald, Kamphausen), but to the vengeance or retribution which God would inflict upon Israel. This is evident, apart from what has been said above against the application of Deuteronomy 32:33, Deuteronomy 32:34, to the heathen, simply from Deuteronomy 32:36, which unquestionably refers to Israel, and has been so interpreted by every commentator. - The first clause is quoted in Romans 12:19 and Hebrews 10:30, in the former to warn against self-revenge, in the latter to show the energy with which God will punish those who fall away from the faith, in connection with Deuteronomy 32:36, “the Lord will judge His people.” - In Deuteronomy 32:36 the reason is given for the thought in Deuteronomy 32:35. דּין is mostly taken here in the sense of “procure right,” help to right, which it certainly often has (e.g., Psalms 54:3), and which is not to be excluded here; but this by no means exhausts the idea of the word. The parallel יתנחם does not compel us to drop the idea of punishment, which is involved in the judging; for it is a question whether the two clauses are perfectly synonymous. “Judging His people” did not consist merely in the fact that Jehovah punished the heathen who oppressed Israel, but also in the fact that He punished the wicked in Israel who oppressed the righteous. “His people” is no doubt Israel as a whole (as, for example, in Isaiah 1:3), but this whole was composed of righteous and wicked, and God could only help the righteous to justice by punishing and destroying the wicked. In this way the judging of His people became compassion towards His servants. “His servants” are the righteous, or, speaking more correctly, all who in the time of judgment are found to be the servants of God, and are saved. Because Israel was His nation, the Lord judged it in such a manner as not to destroy it, but simply to punish it for its sins, and to have compassion upon His servants, when He saw that the strength of the nation was gone. יד , the hand, with which one grasps and works, is a figure employed to denote power and might (vid., Isaiah 28:2). אזל , to run out, or come to an end (1 Samuel 9:7; Job 14:11). The meaning is, “when every support is gone,” when all the rotten props of its might, upon which it has rested, are broken ( Ewald). The noun אפס , cessation, disappearance, takes the place of a verb. The words עזוּב עצוּר are a proverbial phrase used to denote all men, as we may clearly see from 1 Kings 14:10; 1 Kings 21:21; 2 Kings 4:8; 2 Kings 14:6. The literal meaning of this form, however, cannot be decided with certainty. The explanation given by L. de Dieu is the most plausible one, viz., the man who is fettered, restrained, i.e., married, and the single or free. For עזוּב the meaning caelebs is established by the Arabic, though the Arabic can hardly be appealed to as proving that עצוּר means paterfamilias , as this meaning, which Roediger assigns to the Arabic word, is founded upon a mistaken interpretation of a passage in Kamus.
The Lord would then convince His people of the worthlessness of idols and the folly of idolatry, and bring it to admit the fact that He was God alone. “ Then will He say, Where are their gods, the rock in whom they trusted; who consumed the fat of their burnt-offerings, the wine of their libations? Let them rise up and help you, that there may be a shelter over you! See now that I, I am it, and there is no God beside Me: I kill, and make alive; I smite in pieces, and I heal; and there is no one who delivers out of My hand.” ואמר might be taken impersonally, as it has been by Luther and others, “men will say;” but as it is certainly Jehovah who is speaking in Deuteronomy 32:39, and what Jehovah says there is simply a deduction from what is addressed to the people in Deuteronomy 32:37 and Deuteronomy 32:38, there can hardly be any doubt that Jehovah is speaking in Deuteronomy 32:37, Deuteronomy 32:38, as well as in Deuteronomy 32:34, Deuteronomy 32:35, and therefore that Moses simply distinguishes himself from Jehovah in Deuteronomy 32:36, when explaining the reason for the judgment foretold by the Lord. The expression “ their gods,” relates, not to the heathen, but to the Israelites, upon whom the judgment had fallen. The worthlessness of their gods had become manifest, namely, of the strange gods or idols, which the Israelites had preferred to the living God (vid., cf. Deuteronomy 32:16, Deuteronomy 32:17), and to which they had brought their sacrifices and drink-offerings. In Deuteronomy 32:38, אשׁר is the subject, - the gods, who consumed the fat of the sacrifices offered to them by their worshippers (the foolish Israelites), - and is not to be taken as the relative with זבחימו , as the lxx, Vulg., and Luther have rendered it, viz., “whose sacrifices they (the Israelites) ate,” which neither suits the context nor the word חלב (fat), which denotes the fat portions of the sacrificial animals that were burned upon the altar, and therefore presented to God. The wine of the drink-offerings was also poured out upon the altar, and thus given up to the deity worshipped. The handing over of the sacrificial portions to the deity is described here with holy irony, as though the gods themselves consumed the fat of the slain offerings, and drank the wine poured out for them, for the purpose of expression this thought: “The gods, whom ye entertained so well, and provided so abundantly with sacrifices, let them now arise and help you, and thus make themselves clearly known to you.” The address here takes the form of a direct appeal to the idolaters themselves; and in the last clause the imperative is introduced instead of the optative, to express the thought as sharply as possible, that men need the protection of God, and are warranted in expecting it from the gods they worship: “let there be a shelter over you.” Sithrah for sether , a shelter or defence.
The appeal to their own experience of the worthlessness of idols is followed by a demand that they should acknowledge Jehovah as the only true God. The repetition of “I” is emphatic: “I, I only it,” as an expression of being; I am it, ἐγώ εἰμι , John 8:24; John 18:5. The predicate Elohim (vid., 2 Samuel 7:28; Isaiah 37:16) is omitted, because it is contained in the thought itself, and moreover is clearly expressed in the parallel clause which follows, “there is not a God beside Me.” Jehovah manifests himself in His doings, which Israel had experienced already, and still continued to experience. He kills and makes alive, etc., i.e., He has the power of life and death. These words do not refer to the immortality of the soul, but to the restoration of life of the people of Israel, which God had delivered up to death (so 1 Samuel 2:6; 2 Kings 5:7; cf. Isaiah 26:19; Hosea 13:10; Wisd. 16:13; Tobit 13:2). This thought, and the following one, which is equally consolatory, that God smites and heals again, are frequently repeated by the prophets (vid., Hosea 6:1; Isaiah 30:26; Isaiah 57:17-18; Jeremiah 17:14). None can deliver out of His hand (vid., Isaiah 43:13; Hosea 5:14; Hosea 2:12).
The Lord will show Himself as the only true God, who slays and makes alive, etc. He will take vengeance upon His enemies, avenge the blood of His servants, and expiate His land, His people. With this promise, which is full of comfort for all the servants of the Lord, the ode concludes. “ For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, As truly as I live for ever, if I have sharpened My flashing sword, and My hand grasps for judgment, I will repay vengeance to My adversaries, and requite My haters. I will make My arrows drunk with blood, and My sword will eat flesh; with the blood of the slain and prisoners, with the hairy head of the foe.” Lifting up the hand to heaven was a gesture by which a person taking an oath invoked God, who is enthroned in heaven, as a witness of the truth and an avenger of falsehood (Genesis 14:22). Here, as in Exodus 6:8 and Numbers 14:30, it is used anthropomorphically of God, who is in heaven, and can swear by no greater than Himself (vid., Isaiah 45:23; Jeremiah 22:5; Hebrews 6:17). The oath follows in Deuteronomy 32:41 and Deuteronomy 32:42. אם , however, is not the particle employed in swearing, which has a negative meaning (vid., Genesis 14:23), but is conditional, and introduces the protasis. As the avenger of His people upon their foes, the Lord is represented as a warlike hero, who whets His sword, and has a quiver filled with arrows (as in Psalms 7:13). “As long as the Church has to make war upon the world, the flesh, and the devil, it needs a warlike head” ( Schultz). חרב בּרק , the flash of the sword, i.e., the flashing sword (vid., Genesis 3:24; Nahum 3:3; Habakkuk 3:11). In the next clause, “and My hand grasps judgment,” mishpat (judgment) does not mean punishment or destruction hurled by God upon His foes, nor the weapons employed in the execution of judgment, but judgment is introduced poetically as the thing which God takes in hand for the purpose of carrying it out. נקם השׁיב , to lead back vengeance, i.e., to repay it. Punishment is retribution for evil done. By the enemies and haters of Jehovah, we need not understand simply the heathen enemies of the Israelites, for the ungodly in Israel were enemies of God quite as much as the ungodly heathen. If it is evident from Deuteronomy 32:25-27, where God is spoken of as punishing Israel to the utmost when it had fallen into idolatry, but not utterly destroying it, that the punishment which God would inflict would also fall upon the heathen, who would have made an end of Israel; it is no less apparent from Deuteronomy 32:37 and Deuteronomy 32:38, especially from the appeal in Deuteronomy 32:38, Let your idols arise and help you (Deuteronomy 32:38), which is addressed, as all admit, to the idolatrous Israelites, and not to the heathen, that those Israelites who had made worthless idols their rock would be exposed to the vengeance and retribution of the Lord. In Deuteronomy 32:42 the figure of the warrior is revived, and the judgment of God is carried out still further under this figure. Of the four different clauses in this verse, the third is related to the first, and the fourth to the second. God would make His arrows drunk with the blood not only of the slain, but also of the captives, whose lives are generally spared, but were not to be spared in this judgment. This sword would eat flesh of the hairy head of the foe. The edge of the sword is represented poetically as the mouth with which it eats (2 Samuel 2:26; 2 Samuel 18:8, etc.); “the sword is said to devour bodies when it slays them by piercing” ( Ges. thes. p. 1088). פּרעות , from פּרע , a luxuriant, uncut growth of hair (Numbers 6:5; see at Leviticus 10:6). The hairy head is not a figure used to denote the “wild and cruel foe” ( Knobel), but a luxuriant abundance of strength, and the indomitable pride of the foe, who had grown fat and forgotten his Creator (Deuteronomy 32:15). This explanation is confirmed by Psalms 68:22; whereas the rendering ἄρχοντες , princes, leaders, which is given in the Septuagint, has no foundation in the language itself, and no tenable support in Judges 5:2.
For this retribution which God accomplishes upon His enemies, the nations were to praise the people of the Lord. As this song commenced with an appeal to heaven and earth to give glory to the Lord (Deuteronomy 32:1-3), so it very suitably closes with an appeal to the heathen to rejoice with His people on account of the acts of the Lord. “Rejoice, nations, over His people; for He avenges the blood of His servants, and repays vengeance to His adversaries, and so expiates His land, His people.” “His people” is an accusative, and not in apposition to nations in the sense of “nations which are His people.” For, apart from the fact that such a combination would be unnatural, the thought that the heathen had become the people of God is nowhere distinctly expressed in the song (not even in Deuteronomy 32:21); nor is the way even so prepared for it as that we could expect it here, although the appeal to the nations to rejoice with His people on account of what God had done involves the Messianic idea, that all nations will come to the knowledge of the Lord (vid., Psalms 47:2; Psalms 66:8; Psalms 67:4). - The reason for this rejoicing is the judgment through which the Lord avenges the blood of His servants and repays His foes. As the enemies of God are not the heathen as such (see at Deuteronomy 32:41), so the servants of Jehovah are not the nation of Israel as a whole, but the faithful servants whom the Lord had at all times among His people, and who were persecuted, oppressed, and put to death by the ungodly. By this the land was defiled, covered with blood-guiltiness, so that the Lord was obliged to interpose as a judge, to put an end to the ways of the wicked, and to expiate His land, His people, i.e., to wipe out the guilt which rested upon the land and people, by the punishment of the wicked, and the extermination of idolatry and ungodliness, and to sanctify and glorify the land and nation (vid., Isaiah 1:27; Isaiah 4:4-5).
In Deuteronomy 32:44-47 it is stated that Moses, with Joshua, spake the song to the people; and on finishing this rehearsal, once more impressed upon the hearts of the people the importance of observing all the commandments of God. This account proceeds from the author of the supplement to the Thorah of Moses, who inserted the song in the book of the law. This explains the name Hoshea, instead of Jehoshuah (Joshua), which Moses had given to his servant (Numbers 13:8, Numbers 13:16), and invariably uses (compare Deuteronomy 31:3, Deuteronomy 31:7, Deuteronomy 31:14, Deuteronomy 31:23, with Deuteronomy 1:38; Deuteronomy 3:21, Deuteronomy 3:28, and the exposition of Numbers 13:16). - On Deuteronomy 32:46, vid., Deuteronomy 6:7 and Deuteronomy 11:19; and on Deuteronomy 32:47, vid., Deuteronomy 30:20.
“ That self-same day,” viz., the day upon which Moses had rehearsed the song to the children of Israel, the Lord renewed the announcement of his death, by repeating the command already given to him (Numbers 27:12-14) to ascend Mount Nebo, there to survey the land of Canaan, and then to be gathered unto his people. In form, this repetition differs from the previous announcement, partly in the fact that the situation of Mount Nebo is more fully described (in the land of Moab, etc., as in Deuteronomy 1:5; Deuteronomy 29:1), and partly in the continual use of the imperative, and a few other trifling points. These differences may all be explained from the fact that the account here was not written by Moses himself.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 32". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany